The Holy Family Catholic Parish, Uratta in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State was yesterday locked by youths of the parish preventing the parish priest from conducting a church service. The angry youths numbering over 100 were said to have stormed the church as early as 5.30am and locked the main entrance of the church with two big padlocks.
They also hoisted fresh palm fronds at the front of the church gate. The youths who were wearing black clothes barricaded the entrance of the church demanding the immediate removal of the parish priest, Rev. Fr. Raymond Onuoha, accusing him of hardness, lack of respect for the parishioners and under-development of the parish. Some of the placards displayed by the youths read: "Enough is enough", "Fr. Raymond, you have over-stayed", Fr. Onuoha, we are not fools, our silence is not cowardice", "You must leave", "Onuoha, Uratta parish has remained under-developed", "You denied St. Anthony station Owaelu mass because of money".
The spokesman of the demonstrating youths, Mr. Brendan Onyemaucheya alleged that the parish generated enough money yet it remained undeveloped. According to him, there was no meaningful development at the parish after the exit of Fr. Obiukwu despite the huge sums contributed by six stations of the parish. He further alleged that the embattled parish priest taxed the stations heavily without considering the numerical strength. Efforts to enter into the church premises to speak to the parish priest, Fr. Onuha, failed as the youths barricaded the entrance.
The parishioners who arrived for the first Sunday mass service of the month were astonished as opinions were divided on the action of the youths. While some of the parishioners supported the move by the youths, others called for caution saying the youths should adopt dialogue to resolve the matter.
Reacting, the Archdiocese’s Director of Commination, Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu condemned the action of the youths saying they would have channeled their grievances to the Archbishop, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, for peaceful resolution.
According to him, the Catholic Church has a way of resolving its problem not through what he called barbaric act. He, however, stated that the demonstrating youths might not be Catholic faithful.